Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New Year, A Clean Slate

This is the last blog I shall write for 2008. This makes the 144th post for this year. That is a little better than a post every 3 days. My good friend Cindy, who I love to harass, has been doing one a month lately. Guess some guys do have the gift of gab more than some women.

This has been a rough year in some ways. I moved away from some very good friends, who I miss a lot, have had trouble getting a full time job, and am still staying with my parents as a result. Not the way I wanted to end the year, for sure.

Others have lost family members. Just in my circle of acquaintances and friends, Rev Satterfield, and Carrie Mishler. I am sure at the start of 2008 their families had no idea they would be starting out a new year without them.

Conservatism was dealt a hard blow with possibly the most liberal man to ever run for president winning that office. Only God knows what he will do in 2009 that could hurt religious and other freedoms.

Yet the new year, 2009, lies before us like an empty journal, with nothing at all written in it. Just think about it:
None of us has missed a church service yet in 2009
No one has displeased God yet in 2009
There has been no death in 2009 yet
I haven't ticked anyone off with my blog yet..........

365 days lie before us that we can do differently, do better, than we did in 2009. The nation in general may be worse off at the end of 2009 - hopefully not - but personally, each of us can make decisions to better ourselves, and the people around us.

I have never been much for new year's resolutions. They are so easily made, and so easily broken. They last about as long as the first month of the new year, and usually not even that long, but I do have some goals in the new year. Somehow find that full time job, and get my own apartment again. Lose weight. Grow a full head of hair. Improve my relationship with God, and others. OK, maybe the hair is a lost cause, but the others hopefully are not.

If I am still alive then, and Jesus doesn't return, I will turn 40 in 2009. Wow. Can we just stay here in 2008?! I was depressed when I turned 30, I can't imagine what 40 will be like. Fortunately, my friend Darrin Mishler will blaze the trail ahead of me, and beat me to 40 by 3 months. He can show me how it is done. :-)

May all who read this have a wonderful and blessed New Year. God bless!

Breast-feeding & Facebook

I thought this was so ludicrous, I just had to post it here. Hundreds of breast-feeding moms are in a frenzy and boycotting Facebook. Why? Because due to Facebook photo regulations, women cannot post picture of themselves breast-feeding that reveal too much. How cruel. I'd like for someone to come up with an intelligent reason why a woman would want to post a picture like that anyway?! It is a private thing- should be done away from people, and definitely not have pictures posted on the web.

As a side note, here is a bit of trivia that the average person may not know. A lot of people behind the breast-feeding craze (and I am not including the average normal mother in that) - the ones who do the billboards and commercials - they have an agenda. They are animal rights activists who don't want the milk of animals used, so they push breast-feeding. Anyway, that was just a side note. I am not knocking it, though our family doesn't do it, and it seems it would have its disadvantages, but to each her own!

"Mass online protest movement is gathering pace after Facebook banned some breastfeeding photos from the social-networking Web site.

Angry mothers even picketed the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., in a live "nurse-in" to complain about a ban on photos of mothers suckling their children that exposed too much of the mother's breast.

Hundreds of women have had their pictures removed without warning and have been informed that they may be barred from using the site.

More than 80,000 people have joined a Facebook petition group called "Hey Facebook, Breast-Feeding is Not Obscene" with hundreds joining every hour.

More than 11,000 women from around the world took part in an online "nurse-in" protest on Saturday by posting more breastfeeding pictures. The protest's organizers reported that many have since had these photos removed from the site.

Facebook has said that it has no problem with breastfeeding but photos that showed nipples or areolas were indecent and had to be removed.

Barry Schnitt, a Facebook spokesman, said the Web site takes no action over most breast-feeding photos because they follow the site's terms of use.

"We agree that breast-feeding is natural and beautiful and we're very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on Facebook," said Schnitt.,2933,474044,00.html

There is comment that I got - that did not ofend me in the least, but after reading it, thought I would add this even though I put it in my comments:
I guess I should have been specific with the disadvantages: from being around breast-feeding women, I think there are a few. One being, if they want to leave the child with anyone for any extended amount of time, they have to use a pump and go through all that. Another, sometimes it isn't convenient to find a place to do it, and I think it is out of place for a woman to do it in public, even if she is covered. Another: I personally enjoyed feeding my nieces and nephews and know others in the family, even their fathers, enjoy doing that too. That can't happen when the mother breast-feeds, again unless she uses a pump all the time, and I can see how they want the bonding experience, but its nice for other family members to be able to have that too. Kids that are bottle fed can be fed anywhere, anytime, by anybody, which is pretty convenient.
I was in no means saying the kid is inferior, etc, if they are breast-fed. The disadvantages I refer to are for the sake of convenience. Those are the disadvantages I see, and even the women in my family have commented about the same, so it isn't just my opinion as a man, and I am in no means against women doing it. If I marry, I wouldn't want my wife to for these reasons outlined above, but to each their own. I don't have strong opinions about it like home schooling. I am not out to argue about bf, just stating the disadvantages, and not saying that makes bf bad. :-)

And something else I will add for the possible enjoyment of you who breast feed, a story told to me by a co-worker about a friend of hers: Seems the mother, a bf mother, went to town and left the baby with the father. It had just been fed, so she figured all would be well. Wrong. It fusssed so much, in desperation, the father figured he would try a unique way to quiet the kid: He lifted his shirt and let the kid latch on. Problem, the kid built up so much suction that he couldn't pry it loose, not having experience in that area, so he had to wait for Mom to come home and bail him out. And can you imagine the sight that met her? :-)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Love of God Part 3: Overcoming The Doubts

The third and last of three parts on the Love of God. Much more could be said, actually it is an endless topic. I have come from the standpoint of struggling with believing in God's love. The 2 previous posts were on doubting God's love and ways people try to fill the void when they don't believe. This post may be the topic I am least qualified to tackle of the three, but it is also the one I need to cover the most for myself. When you struggle with believing that God actually loves you, what do you do? How do you get past the doubts? Here are some I came up with:

1) Pray. The most important. If you don't do this one, forget any other way. Pray for forgiveness for unbelief. God understands us. He knows why we struggle, what causes us to struggle. He could remove all obstacles, but He rarely works that way. Instead, He helps us to overcome the obstacles. The mountains. If He can do that, then surely He can help us overcome the mountain of disbelieving in His love.

2) Put aside substitutes. Some need completely done away with. The ones that are out and out sin. No arguments. Gambling, any sex outside of marriage, and the like. Others may just need moderation. If you are playing video games 12 hours a day, work it down to 1 or 2 hours. If you don't need to work 120 hours a week, cut back to what you can afford. When the urge comes to engage in the old behaviors, pray, do something good and profitable for your soul.

3) Read the Bible. This should be done daily, but also when we are doubting or struggling with believing God's love. Look up verses talking about God's love, and focus on those. Put your own name in where you can. Instead of "God so loved the world", read it "God so loved Mark", or whatever your name is. Get ahold of a promise book and claim the promises in it for you personally. It is easy to believe they apply to others, but they apply to everyone. Whosoever will.

4) Read books. There are some great books out there that can be of help. I have read some, and am currently reading one. "When God Doesn't Make Sense" by James Dobson, "Disappointment With God" by Phillip Yancey, "Where Is God When It Hurts", also by Yancey. There are many out there. Google it - there are articles on line. There are even some Christian fiction books that address the issue.

5) Music. God and love is a popular theme in Christian songs. Listen to them, and often. I have a play list on my Ipod entitled "songs of encouragement". They are not all songs talking about God's love, but also about His care, and what He will do. "Always Enough" reminds me that there is always enough of God's mercy. "No Limit" points out that there is no limit to His love. "He Paid A Special Price" talks about the fact that Jesus paid a special price for me.

Many people don't like Southern Gospel, but I believe it is a music of encouragement, more so than any other style of Christian music out there. Since it is my favorite style of music, that puts me in touch with a lot of encouraging songs. The trick is to focus on the words, and not just enjoy the pleasing harmony and music.

6) Journal. Or in my case, blog. :-) Seriously, some things are too personal to blog about, so a journal is an excellent idea. Write down what God has done for you. Keep track of the mountaintop times, and when things get rough, when it seems like God isn't paying attention, bring out the journal, and relive the good moments.

7) Remind yourself that just as God doesn't favor one person above another, He also doesn't dislike anyone - even you. Its so easy to believe He loves others, why are you any different?

8) Believe that you are lovable. Your problem with God may be a self-esteem problem. Some people feel bad about themselves because of something they did. Others feel bad because of something that was done to them. Either way, don’t let yourself feel bad about yourself. Work at receiving forgiveness for your failings and giving forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Don’t give in to shame, embarrassment, and negative self-talk. If you do you’ll feel like hiding and will tend to shut out God and others who care about you. Instead, dare to believe that you are lovable and worthwhile and that your emotional needs are important. Then look for loving, gracious people and receive their care as a gift from God. Additionally, try reading and praying over positive Scriptures that focus on God’s love for you.

9) Ask for prayer. Admit you have problems in this area. Don't just pray for yourself, ask others to pray that you can really get a grasp that God loves you.

10) Forgive others. Often when we feel worthless, and unloved by God and others, we tend to struggle with forgiving others. Maybe it is a way of pulling others down to where we feel we are, who knows, but having a forgiving spirit can clear the channels with God.

11) Personalize the Promises. I mentioned it elsewhere, forgetting it was a main point, but it bears repeating. Put your name in the promises to help get ahold of the fact that they are not just for others, but for you.

12) Remember that God loves unconditionally, and He is not surprised by anything we do, or bring to Him. God is love. He can't not love. Get ahold of that fact. He isn't surprised by anything we do. When He died on the cross, and said He loved everyone, He looked across the ages, and didn't find anyone that was exempt from His love. As evil of a man as Adolf Hitler was, He loved him. As horrible as child molestation is, He loves the molester. He loves the sinner, but hates the sin. Most of us aren't as bad as Hitler or a molester, and if He can love them, surely He loves us!

13) Unbox God. Whatever box or mold you have put God in, take Him out. He won't always act how we expect, when we want Him to act. He won't always answer prayers the way we want Him to. But we have to believe that no matter what happens, He still loves us. No matter what. He is love, and cannot do otherwise. The issue isn't Him, but it is us. Our attitude.

Don't ask God to prove His love for you. He did it on a cross 2000 years ago. He has been there, done that. Ask Him to help you believe. He will do that, and remember there is nothing that can separate us from His love. He said so, and God doesn't lie. He loves.

As I close not just this blog, but these 3 blogs, I hope that I haven't only helped myself, but someone else who may struggle in this area, and read my blog. I hope and pray something I have said will be helpful to someone.

One thing I said in my first blog that can cause doubts of God's love, is sin. That has been one for me. I stumbled so much, so often, that I figured God was done with me. There was no way He could love me. I had surely gone too far. This song doesn't talk about God's love, but has been one of the most encouraging songs I have ever run across, so I will leave it as my parting words.

It's Only The First Time

There’s a secret sin that you live with
And it’s tearing you apart
You’ve prayed and prayed, but now you’re ashamed
To ask God to cleanse your heart
But even though you’ve fallen again
When you kneel before Him

It’s only the first time
He’s forgotten the last time
The moment you pray, His grace takes away
The stain of your sin
Just know that in God’s eyes
It’s only the first time
He’s already there to hear your prayer
And forgive you again.

If the Savior says we must forgive
Time and time again
Then how much more will our Lord
Forgive us when we sin
His love is so strong, so wide and so deep
He longs for you to believe

The Love of God Part 2: Filling The Void

This post follows my previous post, The Love of God Part 1: Doubting God's Love. Perhaps this post should be more correctly titled "Trying to fill the void". I have heard it said, and believe, that there is a God-shaped void in our hearts that can only be filled by God and His love. If we don't believe that He loves us, we try to fill that void with something else. When we do that, whatever we try to replace it with, does not satisfy. The appetite for the replacement grows stronger and causes excesses, and often addictions to it, and searching for something else to satisfy, when that fix doesn't work. Anything we substitute for God becomes idolatry. Here are some ways people try to fill that void. It isn't an exhaustive list, but some of the big ones. Also, I should say sometimes people dealing with these things may not necessarily doubt God's love, but are searching for something to satisfy, to fill a void they don't even know they have.

Again, a disclaimer. Just because I discuss something on here does not mean I have personal experience. I did research on this subject.

1) Gambling. This can start small. Bingo at the local fire hall. Lottery tickets. Even something so simple as a raffle ticket. But once someone starts down that path, only God knows where it will take them. Some never lose it all, never get addicted, and gamble with control. Others, especially someone doubting God, quickly form an addiction to it. They often lose all they have, and lose everything, even their families.

2) Eating. There are different types of eating disorders. Some people just eat in an effort to satisfy an empty feeling inside. One that food can't fill, but only God. When food doesn't work, they eat more. They eat when they are lonely. When they are discouraged. Any negative emotion soon sends them to the fridge or refrigerator. Instead of going to a God they aren't sure cares, they eat. Others struggle with bulimia or anorexia. Often, it is rooted in doubting God's love and acceptance of them, and other people's.

3) Shopping. I love to shop. I admit it. I will go a step further, and admit this may be an area where my issues has led me. There have been times I have bought something that I didn't really want. I just needed to buy something. I wanted to buy a new book, and couldn't find one that I knew I would like, so I bought one anyway, and it was one I would never read, but it gave me my fix. My need to buy. I think you can love to shop, and it not be a sign of a deeper problem, but it can be a sign of issues like doubting God's love, and trying to fill the void with stuff.

4) Work. People usually don't become workaholics because they love to work. It is usually an escape. From things at home, or trying to avoid problems, whether outward or inward. A person doubting God and trying to be happy, can try to fill that void with work. In the end, they can lose what is most important. Their family, and their soul.

5) Pornography. It's so easily accessible anymore. You don't have to go down to the adult bookstore anymore and risk being seen. You can do it in your own home on your own computer. It really isn't hurting anyone. What starts as something to do while bored becomes an obsession and addiction. Not always because the person is struggling with issues of God's love, but those who are often pick pornography as the replacement, and what a terrible replacement it is. It can never satisfy, and it is a downward spiral. First it is the soft core. It can even start with the Sears catalog underwear models. Wherever it starts, it worsens until it is the hardcore stuff, and often leads to outright sex. The people who use child porn most likely didn't start there, but went on a downward spiral til that is where they ended up.

6) Sex. It's everywhere. Rare is the TV program that doesn't promote sexual immorality. Premarital sex, adultery. Anyone is at risk, but especially those with issues of doubting God's love. The internet is full of personal ads, often just for sex, chat rooms where people are trying to hook up for one night stands. Sure, people, especially men, seem to be driven to sex. It can be because of visual temptations, but it can also be because of a need to fill that void inside. The void that only God and His love can fill. Sex becomes more than a normal human desire, but an addiction, a drive to get the ultimate sexual experience that will satisfy, but it is an endless search. Sex is a brief and temporary satisfaction.

7) Homosexuality. This kind of goes in with sex, but it is different, so I am giving it it's own point. The reasons people turn to homosexuality are many and varied. They are not "born that way", but can have tendencies, and there are things that can help them go that way. One is a poor relationship with the same sex parent. This often gets transferred to God, especially in men, as God is referred to as a father. If they didn't feel their father loved them, they are on an endless quest to find a man who will love them. Since they can't believe that God loves them either, they have one failed relationship after another, and/or one night stands sometimes up to and over 2000 different men, trying to fill that void inside that only God can fill.

8) Pleasure. This covers a lot of my other points, but can take in so much more. We live in a pleasure mad society. Not all pleasure is wrong. We need fun. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. But pleasure can become an addiction and a substitute for God, whether it be sex, reading, shopping, playing video games, texting. It is a list longer than I have time or imagination to come up with, but no matter how innocent the activity, it can become a substitute for God, and a way to try to fill the void. The void from living a life without God and His love, or simply doubting His love.

The Love of God Part 1: Doubting God's Love

As far back as I can remember, I have struggled with the idea of God loving me. I firmly believe if I could have gotten a handle on it early in life, I would not have had the struggles, spiritually, and otherwise, that I have had. I spoke on this issue a few years ago at my church, and need a refresher course, and decided to put it on here, since I actually kept my notes. Not that I feel I have a way with words, but there may be someone who reads my blog that can use a shot in the arm. Disclaimer: Just because I mention something in this and any blog that follows it, does not mean I have dealt with it personally.

Why do we doubt God's love? So many people seem to dive completely in without ever doubting, yet others have a lifelong struggle to believe that God loves them. Personally speaking, that makes having a true relationship with God pretty difficult.

1) Childhood events. Things that happen to us as children can stay with us forever. I couldn't even begin to list the things that can happen that could cause children to wonder if God really cares about them. With me personally, it was several years of getting bullied and picked on, of always being the last person picked for anything, and knowing that they only picked me because they had to. By the time I hit my junior year, it had died out, but the damage had been done. Getting more of the same in college, though not on the same level, only drove the belief deeper. No one really liked me, not even God, and I wasn't worth much of anything.

2) Wrong image of God. A lot of things can lead to this, but having a wrong image of God can cause a person to doubt God's love. People have many wrong different views of Him: a jolly grandpa who will smile when they do wrong, a cruel tyrant just waiting to punish us for doing wrong, a robot who will do what we tell Him to do, and more. The views are as varied as the people who have them.

3) Bad things happen. There are people who believe in a health and wealth gospel, and they are definitely wrong. Bad things do happen to good people. Just because we are trying to do right does not make us exempt from bad things. Loss of a job, spouse, home, children, health. The list could go on forever. And it can be rough to have faith and believe that in spite of all that is happening, that God does love us and still has a plan. It is so easy to thank God for the good things in our life, and when all is going smooth and well, but when the opposite happens, it is tempting to wonder the opposite: If God is good when good happens, and that shows He loves me, then when bad things happen, is He still good, and does He still care?

4) Religion: The type of church we attend can hurt or hinder us in this area. There is more than part to God. He is a God of love, and He is love, but He is also a God of justice. I think the church is rare that gets the balance just right on those two parts of God. All too many churches go with love, love, love. It doesn't matter what you do, God will love you. They never mention sin, and what will happen to those who sin. They never talk about God being a God of justice who will punish sinners. They want to live under grace, and ignore the rules, and overlook the fact that you still have rules while living under grace.

And then you have the opposite extreme. Those churches who emphasize a God of justice. They practically drive people by fear. They emphasize the rules, not the love and grace. There are many things I like about my church. I do believe Christians should dress differently than the world, live differently, talk differently. Keep all of the commandments, but among it all, God's love needs to be emphasized.

I don't mean this as a criticism of my church, if so, then constructive criticism. Looking back, I can't remember many messages I heard preached on God's love. I am sure there were some. I can remember many messages on hell, missing Heaven, sin, etc. It seems that all too many revival and camp meetings ended with an altar call where the preacher tried to scare people to the altar. I like neither long altar calls, nor ones where people are scared into going to the altar. My personal experience is, if people are scared into going to the altar, or the preacher hangs on til more people go, there is a large percentage who will not truly get help, and if they do, they will be back where they started in no time. I am sure it is easier to get people to the altar by talking about hell, and it should be preached about, but a balance is needed. A balance I don't think we holiness people have.

5) Sin. The further a person goes into sin, often the harder it gets to believe that God could love them, especially if that person grew up in the church. The worse the sin, the stronger the doubt can be that God loves them. It's easy to believe God can forgive the liar, and even the thief, but those who venture into sexual sins, drugs, and worse, all too often find it difficult that God could love and forgive them.

6) Anger at God. Life can be so unfair, and sometimes we lump life and God together, and become angry at God. Why doesn't He do this? If He really loves me, then He would do that. I have read people who say you can be angry at God, yell at Him, tell Him how you feel. I think we should be careful in that area. Being angry with God cannot be good for the relationship, and can lead to doubting His love.

7) Unanswered prayers. Why does God choose to answer some, and not others? It seems that the things we need the most, He never answers, and we are left hanging in the breeze, wondering if He really cares for us, then why doesn't He answer? If you are like me, you start doubting His love, and even your own spiritual condition. It isn't always easy to just chalk it up to the fact that He knows what is best, and has our best interests in mind. It can be all too easy to doubt. Doubt His love, His sovereignty, and sometimes even His existence.

8) Past disappointments. This could go hand in hand with the last one, but can also stand alone. Disappointments can come because of unanswered prayers, but can also come from expectations. We can't put God in a box. Sometimes He does the exact opposite of what we think He should do. He asks us to do what we think we can never do. He seems to sit idly by while our world crashes around us. As we sit in the ruin of what was our life, we wonder where He is. Does He care, and if so, why this? Why me?

9) Bad parental relationships. Our view of our parents can be transferred to God. If a child was abused as a child, often that child will fear God, and not in the healthy sense, and feel like God doesn't love them either, and never could. All too many kids are abused physically or verbally, and even worse, sexually. Those kids will most likely have an extremely difficult time trusting God, and believing in His love for them.

10) Misconceptions of relationships with others. Some people didn't have bad or abusive parents, but their parents didn't act the way they needed them to. They needed more demonstrative love, and their parents weren't demonstrative. Or they needed physical affirmation, and their parents weren't the type to hug. They needed verbal affirmation, and their parents weren't the type to say "I love you" very often. Did their parents love them? Most likely, but we can grow up believing the opposite because they didn't do what we felt we needed to feel loved. That view goes onto God, and He also doesn't do as we expect He should to make us feel loved, so we decide He doesn't love us either.

The misconceptions can come from other relationships besides parents. Siblings, other relatives, friends. Since I have struggled with believing anyone likes me, it is all too easy for me to start thinking someone doesn't like me anymore if they don't seem as friendly as they were, if they answer an email too slowly. That too can rub off on how we view God.

This has already gone longer than I thought it would, so I will continue with my next point another day: What people do to feel the void when they don't believe in God's love.

Media Bias and Exercise

OK, by now it shouldn't be a surprise, but it still is frustrating how biased the media is. This article I lifted from talks about how the same media who is fawning over Obama and his exercise regimen, criticized President Bush for his:

A Tale Of Two Presidential Workout Fanatics
MICHELLE MALKIN Posted Friday, December 26, 2008 4:20 PM PT

Ah, the perks of media affection. On Christmas Day, the Washington Post delivered a front-page paean to Barack Obama's workout habits. The 1,233-word ode to O's physical fitness read more like a Harlequin romance novel than an A1 news article.
Sighed smitten reporter Eli Zaslow, "The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games." Drool cup to the newsroom, stat.

Bush's "(over)exercise of power" is Obama's "time to reflect."
Zaslow imparted us with vital information about buff Bam's regimen: "Obama has gone to the gym for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row."
The Post enlightened us with more gushing commentary from Obama friends and associates, who explain how, as the subtitle of Zaslow's opus put it, "Gym Workouts Help Obama Carry the Weight of His Position."
For adoring journalists, you see, Obama's workout fanaticism demonstrates the discipline and balance in his life. Apparently, what's good for Obama's glistening pecs is good for the country.

Zaslow quoted Obama's Chicago crony Marty Nesbitt, who offered this diagnosis: "He doesn't think of it as something he has to do — it's his time for himself, a chance for him to reflect. It's his break. He feels better and more revved up after he gets in his workout."
And when Obama feels better, the skies will part, the sun will shine (in moderate, environmentally correct, non-global-warming-inducing amounts, of course), and peace will reign worldwide!

Too bad the doughy, McDonald's-chomping, coffee-guzzling members of the White House press corps couldn't see the merits of White House exercise over the past eight years.
After giggling about his out-of-shape colleagues in the media, Zaslow mentioned in passing that President Bush shares Obama's commitment to health.
What he failed to acknowledge is that the same reporters who so greatly admire Obama's lithe figure derided Bush for his training schedule.

Former Post writer Jonathan Chait famously attacked Bush three years ago in an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times headlined "The (over)exercise of power."
Recounting how President Bush ran 3.5 miles a day and preached more cross-training to a federal judge, Chait fumed: "Am I the only person who finds this disturbing? . . . What I mean is the fact that Bush has an obsession with exercise that borders on the creepy."

Chait argued that Bush's passionate devotion to exercise was a dereliction of duty. "Does the leader of the free world need to attain that level of physical achievement?" he jeered. "It's nice for Bush that he can take an hour or two out of every day to run, bike or pump iron. Unfortunately, most of us have more demanding jobs than he does."
Can you imagine any member of the Obamedia mocking the incoming gym-rat-in-chief this way?

Chait was not alone. Reuters journalist Caron Bohan weaved the same unhinged themes into a piece on Bush's two-hour, 17-mile bike ride with cycling champ Lance Armstrong in Crawford, Texas, in 2005. After noting his six-days-a-week workout schedule, Bohan steered the piece into an anti-war screed:
"Bush says exercise helps sharpen his thinking. But some of his critics view his exercise obsession as an indulgence that takes time away from other priorities. Among them is Cindy Sheehan, the Vacaville, Calif., mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, who until late last week was camped out down the road from Bush's ranch seeking a meeting with him to discuss her opposition to the war. Sheehan, who left her vigil on Thursday to tend to her sick mother, has said she believes Bush should take fewer bike rides to have more time to focus on the 'the nation's work.' "

Fit Republican president = Selfish, indulgent, creepy fascist.
Fit Democratic president = Disciplined, health-conscious Adonis role model.
The good news: In just a few short weeks, W. will be able to exercise in peace, free from the disapproving glares of journalists now rushing to mop the sweat — er, the glisten — from Barack Obama's hallowed brow.
Copyright 2008 Creators Syndicate, Inc

© Copyright 2008 Investor's Business Daily. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Past

Hard to believe Christmas 2008 is pretty much over. I know the real meaning of Christmas is Christ's birth, but it is also about family and spending time with them, so it's always sad to see the end of Christmas day come.

Vicki, Steve, and the girls arrived around 10, and the somewhat quiet house ceased to be quiet. We all gathered in the downstairs family/living room where the tree and gifts were, and the fun began. The kids handed most of the gifts out, even Nathan, though most of the ones he did went to the wrong people. They were opened in a surprisingly orderly fashion. As I opened mine, I kept an eye on the package for Dad containing the stuffed Hippo. It ended up being the last thing he opened, and as he opened the box after unwrapping it, I keyed up the song "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" to start playing. When he pulled it out, he, and all of us, about died laughing.

(I am not sure how Nathan ended up in Vicki and Steve's Christmas family photo, but he seems to like Steve pretty well)

I am happy with what I got. I got 4 books, including Ted Dekker's new book, which wasn't supposed to be out until February, so that was a surprise. I got a few articles of clothing, 2 animals to set in my apartment when I get one - I decorate with a safari theme, so Mom got me an elephant and tiger. Also got a flannel blanket/wrap thing, and a few other items. I was also the recipient of a gag gift. Guess I deserve it, as I gave at least 5 this year. :-) Paul & Pam got me a long-haired wig. Beware of gifts from "Santa"! I put it on, and some funky framed glasses we got Mom, and let them take some pictures. I was going to post one here until I saw the end result, so that ain't gonna happen! Pam also got me a small pillow that says "I smile because you are my brother. I laugh because there is nothing you can do about it". :-)

After we opened the presents, we ate a great ham dinner. Free Amish ham courtesy of Mom's and my employer. Maybe because it was free is why it was so good. :-) We managed to get some game playing done, none of which I did very well at. Where is Cindy when I need to beat someone at a game?!

Even though we weren't hungry, especially after eating cookies and fudge all day, we kept tradition and ate again - ham sandwiches and crackers and cheese. And played yet another game that I lost. Vicki and Steve left around 6, but since they both work tomorrow and Saturday, the girls will be back in the morning, and the chaos will start all over again. The kids do play well together, which I am glad of.

As this Christmas 2008 closes, and the New Year looms all the closer, I have been doing some reflecting. (The shaved head helps me reflect........) Lately, I have been all too guilty of seeing the glass as half empty instead of half full, but today has reminded me that I have a lot to be thankful for. And at the top of it all, the fact that over 2000 years ago, God stepped onto this earth and became a baby, only to grow up and die for even me. So as these last couple of hours of Christmas 2008 fade away into the ages, let me take this opportunity to say "Happy Birthday, Jesus".

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

An Almost Win, and A Cookie Break-in

My day started out early. I woke up at 6 am, and was wide awake, so I got up around 7. Paul made omelets with ham, cheese, peppers, and onions in, and we also had sausage - awesome! After breakfast, Paul, Pam, and I headed off to Austintown to go to the used clothing "superstore". I got a few shirts - I am addicted - a jacket, game, and a few books, and the last gag gift for this Christmas. A rather large stuffed Hippo. We got the idea from the song "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas". I wrapped it up for Dad, and am going to try to get the song playing when he opens it. :-) Our trip ended with a visit to Main Moon for General So chicken.

Paul and Pam went to his family's house around 5, leaving a very quiet house. Mom and Dad opened their gifts to each other, something I got them myself - CD and gift card for Olive Garden, and they gave me a couple of my gifts. Possibly the second coolest gift I will get (the first was a new Ipod) - a new alarm clock with an Ipod docking station. For you who don't know what that is, it means I can plug my Ipod into the alarm clock, and play it through it, and wake up to my Ipod music. It even has a remote - pretty cool!

While Paul and Pam were gone, Mom, Dad, and I played a couple of games, the first being Scrabble. We play with one extra tile, eight, instead of seven. I started, and did something I have never done: I used all 8 tiles to make a word. Appealed. You would think starting the game out with 50 points I would win. Oh no. I had to open my big mouth and point out a good place to play the Q when someone got it. Dad had it, and got 40-some points because of me. He won by 3 points. Oh well.

I know I look dorky in these pictures, but Pam talked me into it. Nathan at least looks cute. :-)

My siblings are threatening to start a blog to tell embarrassing stories about me, so I will end my Christmas Eve blog by telling one on myself. About the great cookie break-in.
The year was......not sure actually, but I was in college, and was home for Christmas break from college. Mom and Dad still lived in PA at the time. I knew she had just baked several kinds of cookies and was eager to get into them. The rest of the family decided to do some shopping, and I stayed home. Not just to have cookies, but that was in the plans. Their car had barely pulled out of the driveway before I was in the room trying to lift the lid to the big chest freezer where the cookies were. Notice I said "trying". It was locked. Mom knew me so well. :-) But I was not to be so easily defeated! First, I searched for the key, but alas, it was either with Mom, or hidden too well. I examined the lock. It is the kind that has a small thingy in the middle - the key fits over it, and turns it. A light came on - just maybe, Dad's socket wrench set might work. That was easily found, and after a few tries for size, I was in luck - the lock turned, the lid lifted, and the cookies were there just begging to be eaten. So I did what any adult male with a sweet tooth would do. I ate several. Mom wasn't upset to my knowledge, but she was rather surprised when I told her. She had locked it just to keep me out of the cookies while they were gone, and it did not work!

Michael, Just One Star

I am in no means a fan of a capella singing. Had God intended us to sing without musical instruments, He would not have let them be invented. :-) A side note here: I asked a woman once from the Church of Christ why they don't believe in musical instruments. She gave me 2 reasons. One, they are not mentioned in the New Testament. Weird reason, as there is a lot of things not mentioned in the NT - that doesn't mean they are wrong.........The second reason she gave, was that since everyone can't play something, that it isn't fair for some to be able to praise God in that manner, while others can. In that case, all you people who can sing well, should quit singing, since some of us don't sing well..............

Anyway, we used to have a reading that Mom recorded from the radio by the Regeneration Singers and Dereck Johnson, who I assume wrote it. It has been going through my mind lately, as I always thought it was a cool reading. They never used music, but they hummed, oohed, and ahhed during the reading. I shall try to remember it to put it here, as I cannot locate the reading anywhere.............

Plans were underway in Heaven to celebrate the coming birth of Jesus on earth.
The angels Michael and Gabriel were discussing their great plans for His birth.
Michael was describing a magnificent shooting star display that would fill the heavens for one year preceding Jesus' birth, and for a year following the birth.
Gabriel continued with his plans. On the night of the birth, there would be a choir of angels to announce the birth with song. There would be 10,000 sopranos, 10,000 altos, 10,000 tenors, and 10,000 bass singers.
As the two angels excitedly discussed their plans, God interrupted. "That's not quite what I had in mind".
"What, you mean we need more?!" asked Gabriel.
God smiled. "No. I had something much simpler in mind. Just a quiet manger in Bethlehem".
As He spoke, Jesus stepped onto the carpet of time and began His descent to the earth.
"But Father, He just can't go unannounced! protested Michael.
"OK", God replied. "Gabriel, just a few angels, and Michael, just one star".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Twas 2 Nights Before Christmas

Today has been a rather full day. Instead of working Tuesday through Thursday this week, we crammed it all into Monday and today. After leaving work, I had to go to Columbiana to pick up a couple of pizzas from "R" Pizza for supper. Man, did it take will power to ride 20 minutes back to Lisbon smelling those pizzas without getting into them. I was tempted though. When I got back, I found out that Mom and Dad had made a wager as to whether there would be any missing pieces. Mom said I would eat at least one before I got them here, and Dad said I wouldn't eat any.......... :-)

Paul and Pam arrived at about 4:35 - the reason for 2 pizzas - and Vicki and the girls arrived shortly after. After eating pizza, veggies & dip, and chips, the kids retired to the basement, and some of us played some games.

I am in trouble with my siblings - not for the first time. :-) I have embarrassed both of them on my blog - I guess people do occasionally read my ramblings! Oh well, they will get over it. :-)

The house was definitely not too quiet for most of the evening. When you get all 6 kids here in the same house, it is far from a silent night, but we enjoy it. It takes some getting used to, having extra people around. I walked into the downstairs bathroom and jumped and yelled thinking someone was standing there - and everyone was in bed - here it was just Pam's jacket hanging on the coat tree. Scared the daylights out of me though.

I have to admit I am about as bad as kids at Christmas. To quote Darrel Quesenberry, I like to give presents, but I also like to get them. :-) I accidentally found a paper that I shouldn't have seen. I was looking for some coupons I had printed out, and turned a paper over that Mom had written what paper she had wrapped stuff in. My eyes of course fell to my name: Mark - book & sweater, snowflake paper. Oops! I didn't do it on purpose! Now when I get the snowflake package, I will know what is inside............. If I don't forget - that is highly possible. :-)

It is hard to believe that Christmas is 2 days away. That this time tomorrow evening, it will be Christmas Eve. It seems once December hits, the days fly by. I still have Christmas books to read, Christmas songs to listen to........

I have been reading an interesting little book: "Why A Star" by Brock and Bodie Thoene. They have also been putting parts of it on their blog, listed on my favorite blogs. They have some interesting ideas about the star that the wise men followed. It is part of their "Why" books, small books that are about $3 or $4 - Why A Manger, Why A Crown, Why A Star, and I something else. They make for interesting reading, and since I am all caught up with Uncle John, needed something to take his place for awhile until I get some more of those. :-)

I am into the Chronicles of Narnia quite a bit, and got a couple of cool books about it recently on - also bought for the kids, as book $19.99 books were $1.99 and $2.99. One is similar to a pop-up book - has things to pull and turn, and the other has questions and things about each book. I am currently looking at one called "The Soul of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" that they have for a good price. I already have a map of Narnia, small replicas of the gifts the kids received from Father Christmas, and a couple other odds and ends. I have seen large replicas of Peter's sword on ebay, and think that would be cool, but also a bit too pricey.

Well, when the 3 boys, or girls for that matter - are here, they get up way too early, so I am sure I will be awakened earlier than I want, so I had better be heading off to bed myself.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

More Christmas Music

I am really getting in the Christmas spirit, and that calls for another Christmas blog for at least my own amusement. Just a quickie - should go to bed soon. Here are my top 10 favorite Christmas Cds, somewhat in order:

1) Family Christmas: Talleys
2) Once Upon A Christmas: Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton
3) It's Still The Greatest Story: Gaither Vocal Band
4) Christmas, Gaither Vocal Band Style: Gaither Vocal Band
5) The Music of Christmas: Steven Curtis Chapman
6) Home For Christmas: Amy Grant
7) It's Christmas: Talley Trio
8) This Christmas Time: Lonestar
9) Christmas, My Favorite Time of Year: Paul Overstreet
10) It Feels Like Christmas Again: Jeff & Sheri Easter

My Best Christmas Ever

If I had to pick the best Christmas I ever had, I would have to say it was the Christmas of 1981. It hadn't been an easy year for our family. We were living in an old farmhouse in Rimersburg, PA. I will never forget one night during the winter of 1980, some time in November, being wakened in the middle of the night by my parents, and being rushed outside. A log had fallen on a gas pipe leading to a small open flame gas stove, and broke the pipe off. Only God knows how long gas was shooting into our house that night, and most likely, only God woke my dad up that night.

Christmas morning, 1980. As we were opening our presents, someone noticed smoke coming from above the mantle of the fireplace - there was no fire in it, but there was a wood burner stove hooked up to the chimney. A small fire had started there, nothing of any concern, and was put out with a squirt gun. I don't remember much else about that Christmas. I remember getting a Charlie Chaplain ventriloquist dummy that was cool, and new sleds. Unknown to us, we wouldn't get to play with our toys much that we got.

January 21, 1981. A day none of us will ever forget. It was about the middle of the day, and I was pulled out of my class at school by the principal. I thought I was in trouble, until he also pulled Vicki out of her class. As we stood there wondering what on earth was going on, he informed us that our house had burnt to the ground. No one was home, but everything was gone. Mom and Dad had recently dropped their insurance, so we were left with nothing.

The next several months were spent slowly rebuilding our lives. From January until August of 1981, we lived with my Grandma Buzard. My grandpa died January 30, 9 days after the fire. Everything finally came to a head, causing my parents to turn their lives over to God.

In August, we moved into a place of our own in New Bethlehem., PA. That Christmas was special. We had been given tons of things by people during that year, but on this day, we got all new things. Toys, clothing, bicycles. It was also the first Christmas our family spent as Christians. I had wondered if life would ever be normal again, and that Christmas, it seemed that all was well, at least in my world. I think my parents tried all the harder that year to give us a nice Christmas, and they succeeded. Other than a new bike, I can't name anything that I actually received that year, but it is still the best Christmas I ever had.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Death of Talent

Carrie Mishler officially left this earth this evening, after being in a coma since Tuesday evening. I had only seen her once or twice since I moved back to Ohio, but I am sad as I think about her rather short time on earth. Dying at any time is too soon, but a young mother in her late 30's, leaving behind a husband and two teenage daughters, is too soon.

She was a hard person to get to know. I don't know all of the reasons, but sometimes she would be happy and talkative. Other times, she was silent and withdrawn. They used to sit in front of us in church, and on those talkative times, she would turn around and chat before church started. It seemed that one of her favorite things to talk about with me, was my marital status, or rather lack of it. Back when she attended church more regularly, it seemed every service she would harass me about my need to date and marry. I kind of missed that when it stopped.

She was very talented. She could draw beautifully, and sew, without patterns, as far as I know. Her daughters wore many beautiful dresses put together by her. I remember one time my dad was having a service that he needed some pictures of people showing different attitudes & dispositions. He gave Carrie the paper to make them on, and asked her to help him out. He was surprised at what he got back. The drawings were professional looking, and she did a marvelous job at putting the expressions on the faces. Dad felt bad - he wanted some simple drawings, and she had obviously put a lot of time and work into them, but maybe that is how she was. An artist who could only draw perfection.

As I watched her daughters last night at the program, one actually being in the play, and the other sitting with my niece, at our table while eating, my heart broke for them, and for their dad. How sad to lose their wife and mother, and all the more sad at this time of year. They will definitely be in our thoughts and prayers in these coming days, as they deal with this sudden loss and tragedy.

Carrie, you will be greatly missed. Maybe someone else can pick up the harassing of me about marriage, but I doubt anyone can take the empty place you have left in your home, and in the lives of your family. Rest in peace.

"SALEM -Carrie Dawn (Haight) Mishler 37, of Salem, Ohio died at 5:51 p.m. Friday at UPMC-Presbyterian Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pa.
She was born on Aug. 21, 1971 in Warren, Pa. to Dennis Laverne and Marlyn (Enos) Haight Sr.
She has been a resident of the Salem area for over 15 years, coming from Pittsfield and Titusville, Pa areas. She was a homemaker, attended the Salem Allegheny Wesley Methodist Church, a graduate of the Titusville Wesleyan Academy and attended Allegheny Wesleyan College in Salem.
In addition to her parents of Salem, she is survived by her husband of 15 years, Darrin Lee Mishler, whom she married on Sept. 11, 1993, two daughters, Karissa Dawn Mishler and Kristina Loraine Mishler of the home, a sister, Mrs. Bryan (Rebecca Yvonne) Tiernay of South Shore, S.D., a brother Dennis Laverne (Cindy) Haight Jr. of Salem.
Services will be held on Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Salem Allegheny Wesleyan Methodist Church 1095 Newgarden Ave., Salem with the Rev. Stanley Grabill and Rev, David Blowers Officiating. The burial will follow at Highland Memorial Park, Beloit, Ohio.
A time of visitation will be held on Monday from 6-9 p.m. at the Arbaugh-Pearce-Greenisen Funeral Home 1617 East State St. and one hour prior to the services at the church.
Arrangements were entrusted to the care of the Arbaugh-Pearce-Greenisen Funeral Home, Salem. In joint cooperation with the Scott Black Funeral Home, Stoneboro, Pa."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December Happenings

Man, Christmas is only a week away. Hard to believe. So many Christmas songs to listen to, so little time.........

They had a Christmas party at work today. They supplied sloppy joes, cookies, and pop, and everyone took in something. There was quite a bit of food. They also did a raffle for Fiesta Ware - Mom nor I did that, and then they gave out a ham to every employee. Mom got a 7 1/2 pound, and mine was 11 pounds. Santa handed them out. :-) We topped the work day off with a hearing test. What fun!

This evening was more food. Our church academy had their yearly Christmas dinner and program. There was tons of food, and lots of dessert - 2 tables full! I definitely got enough to eat. I had to laugh at my sister - she took a ham, sliced, and was afraid it would be gone before she got up to it, so she kept a small container of it at the table to ensure that she got some ham. :-) Dad was amazed when we started passing it back and forth.

The elementary kids sang a few songs, then the highlight of the evening: The Christmas Carol play. There were some doubts how this would come out. Caleb, the boy playing Scrooge got sick 2 days before tonight, so a guy from our church was going to play Scrooge, and his name was even listed on the program, but yesterday his wife had seizures and went into a coma, which took him out. In the end, Caleb was able to fulfill his role, which he pulled off very well. My oldest niece played Martha Cratchett, and I thought she did great, but I am partial. She also looked cute in her costume.

My hat is off to Lori, the teacher of my oldest niece, and the director of the play. She has been in several plays, but to my knowledge has never directed one, and she did great. It is obvious that she put a lot of time into it. Her parents were there, and presented her with a bouquet of flowers - I think roses. (Her mother is a delightful woman!)

The costumes were great, as were the props, which were done by the principal. The one thing that went noticeable wrong was the flaming pudding. My niece carried it to the table, and it was flaming pretty high. The kids were blowing on it, trying to put it out, until an adult ran off the stage with it. It turns out that it was a rag that was supposed to be soaked in alcohol, but it didn't get enough alcohol, so the rag caught on fire. :-)

I consider it an evening well spent. Even if I hadn't eaten so well, the play would have been worth it. I like to take in a viewing of the play every year if I can, and have not for a few years. Our local theater is not showing it this year, though their price has gone up pretty high anyway.

There was an air of sadness over some of us this evening. The wife of the guy who was going t play Scrooge, lies at death's door. Most likely, tomorrow the plug will be pulled, and her life will end, leaving behind 2 teenage daughters, and her husband. Even if you don't know the family, say a prayer for them at this difficult time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Activism At A New Level

This story was too funny to not pass on. This may sound rude, but animal rights activists are truly idiotic morons - too bad they don't try to stop the murder of innocent babies instead of doing bizarre things like this:

Gay penguins expelled from zoo colony for stealing eggs are given their own to look after following animal rights protest

By Caroline GrahamLast updated at 4:13 PM on 15th December 2008

A pair of gay penguins thrown out of their zoo colony for repeatedly stealing eggs have been given some of their own to look after following a protest by animal rights groups.
Last month the birds were segregated after they were caught placing stones at the feet of parents before waddling away with their eggs.

But angry visitors to Polar Land in Harbin, northern China, complained it wasn't fair to stop the couple from becoming surrogate fathers and urged zoo bosses to give them a chance.

Who's the daddy? The segregated penguin couple, right, are seen here in their own enclosure quarrelling with another male over stolen eggs

In response, zookeepers gave the pair two eggs laid by an inexperienced first-time mother.
'We decided to give them two eggs from another couple whose hatching ability had been poor and they've turned out to be the best parents in the whole zoo,' said one of the keepers.
'It's very encouraging and if this works out well we will try to arrange for them to become real parents themselves with artificial insemination.'

Wildlife experts at the park explain that despite being gay the three-year-old male birds are still driven by an urge to be fathers.

'One of the responsibilities of being a male adult is looking after the eggs. Despite the fact that they can't have eggs naturally, it does not take away their biological drive to be a parent,' said one.

One campaigner who did not want to be named welcomed the move and said: 'It wasn't fair to stop them becoming parents and keep them apart from all the other birds just because of the way nature has made them.'

Last month zookeepers said the couple were removed from the group not because of discrimination, but so as not to disturb the colony during hatching time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Happy Ipod

Well, my old Ipod is still frowning at me when I try to turn it on, but it has been replaced. I got my first Christmas present in the mail today: a new Ipod! The funny part is, two people bought me one. One of my great friends had pretty much told me he had bought one, and I happened to mention it to Pam, who mentioned it to Mom. Mom had just ordered one for me, so after checking to make sure I had one coming, canceled the one she bought. I gave her a few more ideas to replace that.

I can't say enough about how much I love this new one. It is awesome! My previous one was 20 GB and white. This one is 120 GB and a light black color - slate? It also has cooler features. It also has a little plastic white thing with it that I have no clue what it is for. It is like a small tray that is the width of the Ipod, with a hole in the bottom, like the Ipod goes in it, but I have no idea what for - it is far from being a snug fit. As I type, I am listening to it. My happy Ipod. I am happy too. :-)

Dad's heart cath went well. There was minor blockage that they gave him medicine to take care of, and they did not keep him overnight, as they thought might happen.

A first for me today: I made chex snack mix. Mom makes the original, a bit on the spicy side, as we like it - and only at Christmas - I have no idea why - what is Christmasy about chex mix?! Anyway, there was a recipe on the box for a ranch cheesy chex mix, so off I went to Walmart and got what I needed, and mixed it up. I did mine a bit different than the recipe - added peanuts and cheerios, and extra ranch, and it turned out pretty good. The original cannot be beat, but it is good for a change. Now that I see how easy it is to make, I just may make the other at some point this coming year and break tradition!

They are giving a mandatory hearing test at work on Wednesday this week to everyone who works in the noisy mail room. On Thursday, they are having a lunch - providing sloppy jos and cookies, and whoever wants to bring in other stuff to add to it, can. They are giving everyone a ham, which is cool.

Our church had their Christmas caroling tonight, and came here to sing. They were leaving before I even knew they were here, but as I was in sweats and a t-shirt, I wouldn't have shown my face anyway. :-)

It is hard to believe that Christmas is only 10 days away. I have tried to slow down and enjoy it. I had some of my Christmas books out the other night, and read a few of them through, and of course I am getting a steady diet of Christmas music. Nothing but Christmas. :-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Who Did Jesus Come For?

Today was the kid's Christmas program at our church, and it was very nice. The title was A Savior For Everyone (or something like that). Among the songs was the theme. A young lady played the part of a newspaper reporter reporting on who Jesus came for, and as she gave the results, kids would go up and talk. First off was a little boy with a baseball bat, and he said he was too little, surely Jesus didn't come for him. Next up was a boy dressed as an old man. He said Jesus didn't come for him -he was too old. A girl went up dressed up fancy, and said she was rich, and didn't need Jesus. He didn't come for her, because she already had everything she needed. Lastly, a poor girl who said Jesus surely didn't care about the poor and certainly didn't come for her.

The "reporter" asked if Jesus didn't come for the rich or poor, or the young or old, then who did He come for? She then said we would go back to the events of Jesus' birth to find out. They then had the experiences of Mary- the young, Simeon & Anna - the old, the shepherds - the poor, and the Wise Men - the rich, to show that even at His birth, He did come for the rich and poor, and the old and young.

Something else that was cool, 4 or 5 kids went up, one carrying a large gold package, and talked about something to do with gold & God. She then proceeded to tear the wrapping paper off, revealing black paper underneath, and passed it to the next kid. He talked about our heart being black with sin, then tore the paper off to reveal white paper, and passed it off to the next kid. This went down the line til they got to green paper, which symbolized new life and growth in Christ. I assume that under the green paper was just a plain box. :-) It was a great program, with a great message.

Today was also "treat Sunday", when they pass out a Christmas treat to everyone present. It is a pretty good variety this year - lots of chocolate! I will probably pass my malted milk balls and Butterfinger off to someone else, as I am not a big fan of either. :-)

We had a very nice offertory tonight at church. They did the songs "Cherish That Name", and "There Is Something About That Name". Vicki played the piano, my dad played his harmonica, and they had a bass guitar and regular guitar also. About the time they neared the end of the chorus of the first song, Lydia Kunselman, who was at her seat with a microphone, started the recitation that Gloria Gaither does with "There Is Something About That Name". I personally think she beat Gloria - it sounded great.

It's hard to believe that Christmas is only 11 days away. There is one more thing I need to buy - if anyone knows where I can get a cheap pair of suspenders before Christmas, and the uglier, the better, let me know. :-) Tomorrow night is our carolling, which I doubt I will go to, and the school Christmas dinner and play on Thursday - the high school will be doing "The Christmas Carol". My oldest niece is playing one of the Cratchett kids, and I heard that Lori LaVan is playing the turkey. Did I really hear that, or am I mixed up? :-)

Due to the busy week, the Wednesday evening service will be cancelled. If people went to everything, it would be a bit much.

If you should happen to read this before 7am on Monday, remember Dad in prayer. He is going in for a heart catheterization tomorrow morning.

Our Family Christmas Letter

They started handing out Christmas cards at church today, so I was opening them after I got in the van. One had that familiar shape and length of a dreaded Christmas letter. I opened it, and sure enough, but to my surprise, out fell a group photo of my whole family. I opened the letter and started to read it. By the time I was done, I was laughing so hard I was crying. If you know our family well, or if you have received a Christmas letter that was more a letter of bragging on children, read the following. I didn't write it, but another member of my family did, and it wasn't my parents. And this was done for satire and for a laugh. :-)

"Dear Friends,

We know you all have been anxiously awaiting our first annual family Christmas letter. Enclosed you will find a picture of our precious family...this photo was taken at the Pittsburgh Zoo. We had a wonderful day with out children and darling grandchildren looking at the animals and spending time together. We had the privilege of hosting Paul and Pam for their vacation in July. We all attended a superb 4th of July fireworks at Firestone Park.

Our favorite son and eldest child moved back from the state of Indiana around that same time and he is presently staying at Ma and Pop's place... the food and lodging can't be beat. He does a good job of test tasting all the food and eating our leftovers. He is working very hard and purchased a new car this year. He definitely would make some lucky girl a fine husband!

Our dear Vicki Sue and her hard-working husband are building an addition onto their house...kind of makes us wonder if we are going to be grandparents again :-). We already have the cutest and smartest grandchildren around. Sweet Stephanie, who just turned 13 does exceptionally well in school and is playing the piano. Adorable Allie is 10 and has a very caring attitude and is doing well in school and is also playing the piano. Cute little Caitlin is a joy to be around...and you should hear her read! What fine little ladies Vicki and Steve are raising! Steve is quite the hunter.

The baby of our family, little Pammy, is living in Pennsylvania...she is married to a fine young man who is pastoring a mega church. Paul is looking forward to being ordained this coming year. We are so proud! Josiah, at age 7, is quite a fine young man with an exceptional voice. He too is a good reader and a very good artist.

Little Benjamin is 4 and always wanting to help...he is so very thoughtful...such a good little boy. Then our dear little Nathan (such a cutie!) just turned 2. He is an exceptionally bright child...but we're not just seems to come naturally in our family.

We hope you all have a chance to stop in and visit us over the holidays...we are sure you would enjoy seeing our beautiful home and enjoying our fellowship. Allan has our yard looking nice and has the house decorated very nicely outside...I wouldn't be surprised if our house doesn't win an award for best decorated on route 164!

Janet does such a good job of making the house look nice and she can cook you up and award-winning meal. and her Christmas cookies are simply the best! If you stop by, we have lots of photos of our family to show you and you may even get a chance to visit with our children and grandchildren! Wish we had more time to share, but know that this letter will make your day, even if it is a little short. Blessings on you and yours this Christmas season!

Ma and Pa Buzard

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Cross And The Water Tower

OK, this is kind of a review of a book I have not read or bought yet, but it sounds neat, and I researched the story behind the book. Here is a description from

"Every Christmas for 40 years, the little town of Wauconda displayed a lighted cross on its water tower. It was a tradition everyone looked forward to. But this year, the town found itself embroiled in a battle that caught them totally by surprise. Someone had complained about the cross on public property.

But thankfully, a children's club comes to the rescue. Casey Wilkerson, president of the Water Tower Club, calls members together to decide how to deal with the debate over the cross. They can't imagine Christmas without the symbol of the cross, so they come up with a plan.

The Cross and the Water Tower is a new children's Christmas story written and illustrated by teenage cousins and based on real events in 1989 in Wauconda, Illinois. That was when American Atheists challenged the village's annual practice of a lighted cross on the water tower. In the fictional account, local resident Thomas Birdie contacts an outside organization to come and help him get the cross removed. The organization is not named in the book, but its representative, William Hebert, interrupts a town meeting to declare, "We believe in a constitutional separation of church and state."
Hebert then threatens the town with a lawsuit and the town leaders realize they cannot afford a costly legal battle. Hebert gives them until Christmas Eve to remove the lighted cross, and officials comply with his demand. That's where the kids come in – with an ingenious way to counter the outsider's demand that the cross be removed.
Seventeen-year-old Patrick Mangan, co-author of the book, says, "The true story of the town's heroic stand was the inspiration for our book. Kids today inherit a culture hostile to our faith – and so we share this story with other children to give them hope and a positive way to deal with the attacks on Christianity they will probably experience."
"This is a great story," said Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association. "It addresses the reality of what the next generation faces in our nation, and it reflects precisely the kind of issues AFA has tackled for more than 30 years."
I googled the town name and a few key words to find out a bit more, and here is what I found from the Lake County Journal:
'The Cross and the Water Tower, A Christmas Story'

That’s the name of a wonderful new book that is based on a true memorable 1989 incident, or Wauconda fights back, as Your Friendly Columnist puts it.
Here’s what happened in Wauconda.For years a sturdy cross sat atop our water tower, and during the Christmas season it was lit by tiny Christmas tree lights. It was a positive beacon of faith and good will toward man.
One day a stranger with a different belief system from ours, who lived 50 miles away, showed up with the intent of getting the cross removed. He planned to go to court and fight, using the funds and power of a strong organization with his belief system and misusing the constitutional doctrine of separation of church and state. That doctrine really means that the federal government should not establish a church.Wauconda, however, did not have the money for a court battle.
So, the cross came down. But Wauconda residents fought back. Suddenly crosses started to appear all over town. On roof tops, in windows, on lawns - everywhere you looked there was a cross.
Last year, a few talented teens were so moved by hearing this story, they were inspired to write the book. It’s a fictional novel based on the 1989 incident. Patrick and Mary Mangan have written a wonderful book and K.P. Sullivan has beautifully illustrated it. A group of their teen friends helped with the research. It is a lovely book and would make a great Christmas gift.The book is dedicated to the 1989 residents of Wauconda. Your Friendly Columnist is happy to live in a country that honors religious freedom, and she’s proud to be a part of a town that fights for it. She is also grateful for our future that looks to be in good hands, if they are all like Patrick’s, Mary’s, K.P.’s and their pals."

I think the book sounds good, and may try to get hold of a copy some day. The thought that hit me when I read about the book, and then read the newspaper article, was why can't we be more like that? When the atheists cause the 10 Commandments to be taken from a court house, all of the Christians in that town should post the 10 Commandments. When it is a nativity scene, put out Nativity scenes. We are letting the atheists get away with too much, and though this story happened almost 20 years ago, it is refreshing to read about a town who didn't take it sitting down.

The 12 Pains of Christmas

There is an amusing song, "The 12 Pains of Christmas" that lists 12 things the song writer doesn't like about Christmas. As much as I love the season, there are some things that are a "pain" to me also. Thought I'd share them. :-)

1) Christmas letters. This tops my list. I cannot put into one blog how much I detest getting these. I love getting Christmas cards, especially if the person writes a little personal note - makes me feel good. But to get a letter that has nothing personal in it for me, and was sent to tons of other people - that just doesn't cut it. I don't care how many teeth their kids lost that year, what sport they excelled in. Whether or not their baby got potty trained.........All I want is a Merry Christmas! :-) I rarely read them when I get them, unless it is a close enough friend, then I will skim it. But what a horrid Christmas idea!

2) Santa in the manger. I get the idea. I really do, but I don't like it. Not even a little bit. Santa belongs somewhere else, not in the manger scene. Why not bring in the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy?!

3) Xmas. Yeah, X stands for Christ, blah, blah, blah. I still hate it. Detest it. Find it irreverent. And I would say the biggest percentage of people who use it have no idea it stands for Christ and are just too lazy to spell it out, or don't want to see "Christ" in Christmas.

4) Christmas returns. It is such a pain to go back to exchange after Christmas. I try not to do it. Even holding onto jeans 5 sizes too small, hoping I may get into them some day. OK, 5 sizes is an exaggeration.

5) Christmas cantatas. Ours was really good this year, but I am not usually a fan. Too many of them have weird songs in them and/or take familiar songs and put them to some bizarre tune and arrangement. If you are going to sing Away In A Manger or O Come All Ye Faithful, sing it the way it was written! Dan Forrider picked a great cantata this year, and did an excellent job of conducting it.

6) The end of Christmas. After all of the Christmas presents are opened, and the day is drawing to an end, I don't like it. You wonder if everyone will be here for the next Christmas. What the coming year will bring. Sounds morbid, but I usually go through that.

7) Sending Christmas cards. I am a hypocrite. I admit it, and will say it again. I am a hypocrite. I love to receive Christmas cards, especially when the person writes a short note inside, or at least my name :-), but I don't like making them up very well. This year, I am not sending many. I sent to my aunts who would probably be offended if I didn't. Well, I know one of them would for sure. I sent to my friends in Indiana, and a couple of other people, and that is it. I have a lot of cards, and they are all in my storage unit, and I hate the thought of buying many more.

8) The weight. I eat too much at Christmas. The cookies, candy. But man, I do enjoy it!

9) Christmas letters. Yep. I mentioned it already, but my opinion of them is such, that it deserves another mention. :-) I have actually thought of making one up for anyone who gives me one, and may just do that some day. :-)

10) Christmas photos. This will sound really rude, but not everyone wants a pictures of your kids. Or your dog - got that one last year. :-) Send them to close friends and relatives, but not the whole world. I personally don't mind close friends giving me one, but if someone is a mere acquaintance, I most likely don't have a spot in my photo album that is crying for their picture. :-)

11) Singleness. Being single isn't all that bad. Its got its upsides and its downsides, but so does marriage. But at this time of year, its worse. You hear all of the Christmas songs that are geared for people who have someone. "Merry Christmas, Darling", "All I Want For Christmas Is You". I sing "Merry Christmas, Darling" to my teddy bear, and that helps. Just kidding. I don't even have a teddy bear. :-) It does seem there is so much geared toward families and couples this time of year.

12) Weird Christmas songs. I did a whole blog on this, but it makes #12. There are just some songs that should never have been recorded, and some people who should never have recorded a Christmas song. Or any song.

This blog was done for fun, and I don't sit around mulling about what I don't like about the season, when there is so much more that I love about it. Just don't send me a Christmas letter................................